Book Review: Zendegi by Greg Egan

Zendegi by Greg EganZendegi by Greg Egan

Gollancz, 332pp paperback, £7.99 cover price

Reviewed by R A Bardy [@mangozoid]

This is a tale split into two halves – the first covers a present-day Iran (2012) experiencing severe political upheaval eerily similar to this year’s troubles in Egypt and Libya, serving to introduce Martin Seymour as the journalist sent to cover the Iranian elections, and Nasim as a brilliant computer scientist pushing the boundaries of virtual world-building.

The second part takes place 15 years later and Martin has now settled in Iran, is widowed and trying to raise his only son (Javeed) after contracting a terminal illness. Here too we also find Nasim’s earlier research has put her at the head of Zendegi, a virtual world used regularly by millions for business and entertainment purposes. Cue the efforts of Martin and Nasim to build a virtual father figure intending to guide Javeed to adulthood by mapping Martin’s reactions to varying stimuli in the virtual world.

I really struggled with this book and found the author’s tendency for info-dumping extremely jarring – it got so bad I chose to put the book down initially, resolving to try again at a later date. I am glad I did, but only to the extent that I can categorically assure others that this story is sleight at best, and at least 150 pages too long.

I’m not a regular reader of Greg Egan but I gather his output has tailed off significantly over the last few years, and if this is an example of his ‘modern’ writing then I’m happy to pass and consider trying his earlier work instead.

* This review originally appeared on the British Fantasy Society website here

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